The Texans advanced to this weekend's game with one of the most exciting, pressure-packed contests this city has ever seen. The reward for their 22-19 win over Buffalo? A trip to Kansas City to take on last year's MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Nice reward, huh? The AFC West champs earned a first-round bye after a Week 17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and a subsequent loss by the New England Patriots. Both teams tied at 12-4, but the Chiefs win in December in Gillette Stadium gave the Chiefs the tiebreaker and the opportunity to watch Wild Card weekend play out.
When the dust settled, wins by Houston and Tennessee, the AFC's sixth seed, created a rematch and another opportunity for the Texans to take on Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. The teams met back in October for the first time since a Sunday night meeting in 2017 and the Texans flew home with a 31-24 win. After that game, Mahomes said to Deshaun Watson that he'd see him later in the year. Watson smiled back and said "for sure."
So, here we are, a little more than two months after the first meeting, the two teams meet again and there are plenty of differences in the two clubs. The Chiefs defense is much, MUCH improved since the first meeting. Over the past seven weeks of the season, the Chiefs defense gave up fewer than 12 points per game. The Chiefs ball hawks also went and found the ball in the air as it racked up 10 interceptions, yielding just five passing touchdowns. Over that seven week span, Steve Spagnuolo's defense was best in the NFL in points allowed, total offensive touchdowns given up, opponent passer rating, touchdown passes allowed and interceptions. Now, the only playoff team the Chiefs faced, and beat, was the Patriots; furthermore, Kansas City's defense faced just one offense that was top 10 in yards per play. So, yes, it's a much better unit, but it's due in part to the competition it's faced.
Offensively, the Chiefs are as dangerous as it gets in the league. Mahomes is an absolute monster. Tight end Travis Kelce and all-around weapon Tyreek Hill are arguably as explosive as any two players could be at their respective positions. Left tackle Eric Fisher is back after missing the Week 6 contest with the Texans. Stopping this offensive juggernaut consistently will take a total team effort - offense, defense and special teams - from the Texans.
The Arrowhead Stadium crowd will also be a major resource for Mahomes and company, so the Texans have their hands full with this crew on Sunday. Without further ado, let's get to know the wildly-talented Kansas City Chiefs... again.
2019 Schedule - Record 12-4
W, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 40-26
W, @ Oakland Raiders 28-10
W, Baltimore Ravens 33-28
W, @ Detroit Lions 34-30
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-13
L, Houston Texans 31-24
W, @ Denver Broncos 30-6
L, Green Bay Packers 31-24
W, Minnesota Vikings 26-23
L, @ Tennessee Titans 35-32
W, @ Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 (Mexico City)
W, Oakland Raiders 40-9
W, @ New England Patriots 23-16
W, Denver Broncos 23-3
W, @ Chicago Bears 26-3
W, Los Angeles Chargers 31-21
Chiefs Offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 98.1 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 281.1 ypg (5th)
Total offense per game - 379.2 ypg (6th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (5 INT, 10 fumbles lost)
Projected Chiefs Starting Offense for Sunday's Divisional Playoff Game vs. Texans:
QB - Patrick Mahomes
RB - Damien Williams
WR - Tyreek Hill
WR - Sammy Watkins
WR - Demarcus Robinson
TE - Travis Kelce
LT - Eric Fisher
LG - Andrew Wylie
C - Austin Reiter
RG - Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT - Mitchell Schwartz
Other Key Offensive Pieces:
WR - Mecole Hardman
FB - Anthony Sherman
RB - Darwin Thompson
RB - 'Shady' McCoy
TE - Blake Bell
G - Stefen Wisniewski
Keys to Stopping the Chiefs Offense:
1. Keep Mahomes in the well. He can slice defenses up from inside or outside the pocket, but I'll take my chances having him throw from a consistent, closed down well vs. him on the run, with no contain, and his receivers on the scramble drill.
2. The pick plays are-a-comin'! The secondary/linebackers must stay on different levels and communicate with one another to not get picked off by Travis Kelce or on routes to Kelce when they're in man-to-man coverage.
3. Devote a couple of defenders to Tyreek Hill, as much as humanly possible. The Chiefs consistently find a myriad of ways to get him the ball, not just in the passing game. However, when he's out at receiver, multiple sets of eyes have to be on No. 10. The biggest play of the Chargers game was a seam route that Hill beat... a LINEBACKER (?!) down the field to set up the clinching touchdown. The Patriots won the AFC championship game last year by taking away Hill with double teams throughout the night. That may not be possible at all times, but a linebacker running down the seam in coverage on Hill isn't the answer... EVER.
4. Screens, screens and more screens. On the first drive of the Week 6 contest, Andy Reid went to the slip screen to running back Darrel Williams. As such, Williams tore off a HUGE gain that set up a long touchdown pass to Hill a few plays later. The screen game is a staple in this offense and is an extension of the run game. It's going to be a major issue if the Texans aren't consistently aware for screens.
5. TACKLE everything that moves with more than one or two defenders. Running back Damien Williams embarrassed the Chargers TWICE in Week 17 on touchdown runs, breaking multiple tackles on each touchdown run. Bring your big boy pads and then bring everyone to the party.
Chiefs Defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 128.2 ypg (26th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 221.4 ypg (8th)
Total offense allowed per game - 349.6 ypg (17th)
Turnovers generated - 23 (16 INT, 7 fumble recoveries - Chiefs were +8 in TO margin in 2019)
Projected Chiefs Starting Defense for Sunday's Divisional Playoff Game vs. Texans:
DE - Tanoh Kpassagnon
DT - Chris Jones
DT - Derrick Nnadi
DE - Frank Clark
LB - Anthony Hitchens
LB - Damien Wilson
CB - Bashaud Breeland
CB - Kendall Fuller
S - Tyrann Mathieu
S - Daniel Sorensen
CB - Charvarius Ward
Other Key Defensive Pieces:
DE - Terrell Suggs
DT - Mike Pennel
DT - Xavier Williams
LB - Dorian O'Daniel
DT - Khalen Saunders
DE - Demone Harris
LB - Ben Niemann
S - Armani Watts
Keys to Winning vs. the Chiefs Defense:
1. Balance in the attack and balance in each category - run and pass. Hit them with different run game variations, as much as they mix up the passing game concepts, to keep the Chiefs defense on their heels and guessing.
2. Know where No. 32 (Tyrann Mathieu) is and fully understand what his impact can be on those plays. Account for him in the blocking scheme, if necessary, and always know when he's floating in the secondary looking for the ball. He had three interceptions in the last six games and would love to add another one to his mantel, against his former team.
3. Get the ball out of Watson's hand and let's GO. Run or pass. Play speed. Tempo. Let's turn up the volume. Don't allow Frank Clark and Terrell Suggs to get in rhythm rushing the passer from the edge.
4. Can the Chiefs cover the Texans running backs out of the backfield? The Chiefs weakness against running backs in coverage is well known and the Texans running backs are excellent in the passing game.
5. Receiver Kenny Stills will see 1-on-1 throughout the game with the Chiefs focus on DeAndre Hopkins and, perhaps, Will Fuller V. He must continue to win that 1-on-1 against the second or third Chiefs cover guy as he's done all season long.